Tuskegee University to hold ‘virtual graduation observance’ on May 9

Amid the need to continue the practice of social distancing, Tuskegee University is turning to a virtual alternative to its typical Spring Commencement Ceremony to honor the achievements of its Class of 2020 graduates.

Instead of an on-campus commencement ceremony, the university is planning a video-based “virtual graduation observance,” and President Lily D. McNair emphasizes the distinction between this observance and a “commencement ceremony” is intentional.

“We have committed to honoring our Class of 2020 graduates in person, on campus and at a time when it’s safe and responsible to do so,” McNair said. “So, this May’s event is not a replacement, but a placeholder, for the true commencement celebration to come.”

To honor its graduates in the short-term, the university is producing a pre-recorded video observance that will include some of the elements of a traditional commencement ceremony. Graduates will receive well-wishes from the university president, chair of its Board of Trustees, and Tuskegee National Alumni Association president. Their deans will still present their respective graduates to the president for the conferral of their degrees — and, graduates will hear their names called while student-submitted photos appear on the virtual stage to mark the receipt of their degrees.

The recorded video ceremony will publish to the university’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/tuskegeeuniversity) at 1 p.m. central time on Saturday, May 9 — the original date of the Class of 2020’s commencement ceremony. The ceremony will remain available on the university’s YouTube Channel beyond May 9 for future sharing and viewing.

By the end of May, graduates will receive their diplomas and diploma covers, official transcripts and other materials in the mail. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university had to push back academic deadlines for graduating seniors. Therefore, students who anticipate completing all their graduation requirements will be included in virtual graduation observance; however, their participation is not a confirmation that all their requirements have been satisfied.

McNair indicated that university leaders are already considering a date in December when Class of 2020 graduates will be invited to return to campus for an official commencement ceremony. Spring graduates will be notified as early as possible when that date is set so they can make plans to participate.

The university derived its plan for a virtual graduation observance after surveying students, and conferring with its academic leaders and community health experts. The College of Veterinary Medicine hosted a similar event on Friday, May 1, which also included a live administration of the Veterinary’s Oath by the college’s 56 DVM graduates.

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